Manuscript Monday: Ways to say “Walk”

It’s Manuscript Monday! How are you using your words?

One way to make your manuscript shine and take it from normal to exceptional is to push your word power. Here are some different ways to say “walk”.

In the comments, leave us a sentence with your favorite subsitution for walk and we will randomly select a winner for an ebook of your choice from either Pen Name Publishing or French Press Bookworks.

Other ways to say "walk" |Pen Name Publishing |


Manuscript Monday:

It’s Manuscript Monday! How are you using your words?

One way to make your manuscript shine and take it from normal to exceptional is to push your word power. Here are some different ways to say “dark”.

In the comments, leave us a sentence with your favorite subsitution for the word dark and we will randomly select a winner for an ebook of your choice from either Pen Name Publishing or French Press Bookworks.


Manuscript Monday: Word Power – Happy

It’s Manuscript Monday! How are you using your words?

One way to make your manuscript shine and take it from normal to exceptional is to push your word power. Here are some different ways to say happy.

In the comments, leave us a sentence with your favorite subsitution for happy and we will randomly select a winner for an ebook of your choice from either Pen Name Publishing or French Press Bookworks.

Manuscript Monday - How else can you write "Happy"? | Pen Name Publishing

Manuscript Monday: What to do with a successful query


You’ve done it. You’ve written a query letter and the agent or editor likes your submission. Now what? How do you deal with the high of a successful query?

The first step you should take is to go back to the agent/editor/publisher’s website and review their submission policies. Make sure you know exactly what they want, if they request documents formatted in a certain fashion, or any other specifics.

Next, review your query letter. Reflect on your tone, your voice, and your personal character. The responding agent clearly likes this person and wants to deal with them. Continue to give them exactly what they like.

Move on to reviewing the response again. Is there anything they ask for in this query? Do they give you timelines for your response or their expected response? Do they tell you if they will answer you back or they’ll only answer if they want to open contract discussions?

Take note of these requests. Write them on a sticky note that you place in a prominant location in your writing or work area.

What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet for your submissions to track dates, locations sent, specifications like whether or not you can submit the manuscript to multiple places, and if the piece was accepted or not.

Seems easy enough, right?

Not exactly. So many authors make it to this point and then blow it with a Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza. We know it’s exciting but don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

When you write your response, keep the same tone and attitude as your intial outreach. Don’t get too excited, don’t brown nose, and for the love, do not use text talk. Give the agent exactly what they ask for. No more, no less, and quietly return to your place in line.

Where most authors go wrong is the follow up. One week will pass and they will write because they expect results or a response saying when to expect results. As easy as it is, do not fall into this trap. Many agents, editors, and publishers will find it disrespectful. We often work with multiple queries at a time. Many publishing houses don’t send rejections, only acceptance letters. You might push your manuscript from that acceptance into the rejection by being too persistent.

If it does turn out that you get a rejection letter in the end, don’t ask why. Don’t ask for feedback or an explanation, and most certainly, do NOT send back a firey response. People talk and the industry tends to be pretty tied together. We know of many publishing houses that will take a manuscript not right for them and forward it to a friend. It’s much easier to chew when your foot isn’t in your mouth.

If you are offered a contract, contain your excitement. Don’t sign until you understand exactly what you are signing, what you are granted, what your rights are, what you do NOT get under your contract, and never sign until you have passed the document past a lawyer.

You have put blood, sweat, tears, and many sleepless nights into your manuscript. Make sure that what you move forward with is what you want. Chances are, you’ll know if the publishing house fits your needs and desires by their website. You shoudln’t be surprised by what a house can offer you based on their size if you’ve properly done your research.

Getting an offer and then turning it down because what they state they can offer doesn’t meet your expectations, especially after it is listed on their website, wastes their time and money, and your time and money (as you could have been securing a contract that meets your needs),

Have you ever had a successful query letter? Share your experiences with us in the comments, or tell us how you’ve grown in your query letter journey!

Manuscript Monday: What NOT to say in your query!

What Not to write in your query letter (1)

Hey friends, readers, writers, authors, and anyone who stumbles over to this little blog for Pen Name Publishing and French Press Bookworks!

January turned out to be a little crazier for us than we thought and we had to weigh out what and where to put our time. Unfortunately, that means the blog was a little quiet and we weren’t as fun on social media as we usually are.

First up, we are releasing David O’Sullivan’s cover today. Eek! WE LOVE cover reveal’s! Are you ready? This one is so fun. The covers that weren’t and the cover that is, well, we think they are all pretty stellar! Hold tight, that comes at 12PM EST.

Secondly, the book club discussion questions for our January Book by Rabindranath Tagore will be posted today. We can’t wait to hear what you thought and we’re now diving in to book #2 – The Tale of Genji. Are you reading the classics and novels with impact with us? If not – join us on GoodReads by clicking here.

Thankfully, we have brought on three new Assistant Editors we will introduce to you this week – one being our very own, very lovely, very driven, Ana Franco.

Ana will be overseeing Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Paranormal submissions and I know she is probably jumping with joy right now that we’ve said this loud and clear. Ana is such a joy to work with as she is constantly looking for new ideas and almost every day I have an email saying, “Hey, I thought about this (xxx). What do you think?”

She might just be one of the hardest working book bloggers/indie authors we’ve ever met. She works hard to promote the team, is always laughing, and always full of inspiration. We are so happy to have her on board, both as an author, and now as an Assistant Editor for Paranormal, Fantasy, and SciFi.

Later, we’ll introduce you to Brianna VanGorder who will check out all you naughty little Romance writers, and Rachel Edgell who eagerly jumped in on Historical Fiction and Nonfiction.

While you’re waiting on these introductions, we’re going to kick 2015 off with the one piece that continues to throw everyone for a loop – the query letter.

We’ve given some suggestions on what to write in previous blogs, but it seems like the biggest help will come in what NOT to write.

Our inboxes were overflowing after the holidays and we had to wade through them quicky, making decisions based on the query letters.

With over 275 submissions, we only moved forward on full manuscript reviews for 50. From there, we have opened up the conversations and contract negotiations with 13 titles.

So what turned us off from 225 submissions?

  1. Lack of attention to detail. We’ve been queried by multiple authors who didn’t write our name properly. We’ve gotten No Name Publishing, Penned Publishing, Pen Name Publisher, French Books, The Press Bookworks, and Pen Name Bookworks. We even continued with one during our first few months because we thought it was an honest mistake. But, it really bit us the wrong way because it showed the author wasn’t committed to their outreach in any way, shape, or form.
  2. A brief synopsis that does not match the submitted chapters. If you’re telling me you have a nail biting, action packed, edge of your seat thriller – prove it. Don’t put me to sleep before you blow me up.
  3. A lack of understanding of genres. If your book is influenced on true events in your life but not factually following those events, it is not Nonfiction. I don’t mean the basic disclaimer to try and appease those you might upset when you write about your experience – I mean telling me your romance novel where one character is based off of your high school crush and the entire book is based on your fantasies, but all of the details are changed, is Nonfiction. (I know, you might be spinning on that one, we were as well.)
  4. Saying you are a well known independent author but you can’t back it up.  We hear it routinely – you are a Wattpad or Smashwords superstar and have built a strong following through years of hard work. When we check this, your social media following is next to nothing, we don’t see any comments or readers on your fanfiction or writings, and your blog hasn’t been touched in five years. If a Google search can’t find you, chances are we might not be able to if we really need you as well. Present yourself for exactly who you are. This will help the publisher work with you, create your plan, and anticipate exactly what they can do and offer for your contract.
  5. Bargaining in the opening statements. Leave the negotiations for the negotiations. Let us see if you’re even a fit or if we feel that we can support you and help you grow. Throwing out a hard sell of requesting a 6 figure advance and guaranteed movie rights from a small house like us is laughable. From a large house, it’s not laughable but it would be a closed door.
  6. Uncompleted manuscripts. Even though we require the manuscript to be completed to look at it, we still get many queries where the author says they will only finish the book if they get signed. That says to us that you just are not that passionate about your story and it doesn’t have an important place in your life.
  7. Jumbled words and stream of conscience styled approach. We love experimental writing styles the same as the next literary junkie who’s ever had to study authors in an academic setting. We had some beautiful submissions come our way in experimental fiction, but if we can’t make sense of your query letter then we know the communication process is going to be strained. That, my friends, is no fun.
  8. Ego. We had a handful of queries stating they are the best, new, undiscovered, unappreciated author in their genre and their work is going to blow us away. Our work is about collaboration and due to the small nature of our house, we don’t have the ability to manage people who start out with egos and then grow to Hulk sized mental monsters. This may work for a larger house but here’s our tip: do your research before being this bold. If this is you, you’re going to do best in a publishing house that probably doesn’t care about you and is just excited about the dollar signs flashing in their eyes.
  9. Begging. Yes, we got a query that said if we don’t publish a certain manuscript, a child would have a harder life due to their parent’s lack of income. We were then provided with a fundraising link to submit funds to if we declined their manuscript. We did neither. We got a really nasty follow up. We shared it with a few of our friends in the industry as well. Next.
  10. Negative information about previous experiences. We have met some potential authors that have worked with multiple publishers and seem to always have something negative to say about every one. We weren’t there, we don’t know for sure what happened, but a chain of consistent negative actions likely points to the only common denominator. Also, if you’re having consistently bad experiences, maybe you aren’t taking the time to understand your contract and what the publishing house is offering. You need to know that this could be considered slander and put you in to a precarious financial situation. It’s best to try and figure out what’s going wrong and find the right solution. And, as always, there are two sides to every story. If you’ve had a bad run with a publisher, they probably can list just as many things from their end. Don’t open that can of worms, keep your nose clean.
  11. Insane demands and refusal to meet the publisher’s need. In today’s day and age, books and authors are everywhere. We’ve had a few queries demanding mass support in custom made products in hopes of landing a movie deal, down to authors who straight tell us they won’t do any event under 100 people or work with any website/book blogger that is under a certain ranking. We love that you support your book, but other people need the chance to find it. Starting off right from the start and establishing that you feel you are too good for portions of your audience will not win us over. We firmly believe that an audience of 5 can be just as powerful as an audience of 100. As a matter of fact, the audience of 5 will likely be more invested in what you’re saying and the audience of 100 will likely be on Instagram showing anything but you. Some of our biggest fangirls and fanboys have come from tiny blogs and everyone grows from somewhere. Every relationship matters and a successful author will realize this.
  12. Being under contract with another publisher. This happens quite a bit. We find a submission we adore and have to ask the author if their previously published piece is under contract. If it is, do they have a noncompete or right to refusal clause? 99% of the time, they do. Authors, please understand your contracts and your legal obligations. If a publishing house signs you without requesting you to research your previous contracts, you could put yourself into a financial pickle and possibly blacklist yourself depending on who you’re involved with. Don’t ruin your future. If you have a right to refusal clause and you want a new publisher, send that publisher a manuscript of steaming dung that they won’t want to touch and let them refuse it.

On the short side of things, be direct and to the point but let your individuality come through. Don’t be demanding without experience as publishers might see you as a liability. Don’t send in a query you have not researched. Make sure you know your book and how to represent it. Make a plan for how you are going to build your book on your own time, show the publisher that you are invested in your success, that you can work well with others (maybe you occassionally run with scissors, okay, we can work with that) and they will likely invest in your success and help you get that little manuscript that could turned in to the manuscript that did.

And, if you don’t like these suggestions and want to be bossy, arrogant, demanding, egotistical, and feel like you’re on a pedestal of gold above your audience – take the plunge and try to knock the socks off of that iconic agent or publishing house.

Maybe you’ll get it. Maybe you won’t. Either way, your future is completely in your hands.

Do you feel like being funny? Leave an example of the worst query letter you could possible create this week in the comments below. The worst query letter will get an advanced eBook of every title we will be releasing this year as well as Peter Monn’s “The Before Now and After Then” and Leigh Rains’ “We’re All Mad Here”.


Manuscript Monday: The Covers That Weren’t – Leigh Raines

Last week we talked about the covers that weren’t for Peter Monn’s The Before Now and After Then.

French Press Bookworks is bringing the fantastic We’re All Mad Here by debut author Leigh Raines shortly and tomorrow, we debut the cover for you.

It was a lot of fun to work on and our artists were able to present quite a few pieces with different feelings.  The book is young, it touches on a difficult issue, it plays off of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter tea party mentality, and talks about a serious subject that is still taboo regardless of the overall prevalence in society.

To amp you all up and get you excited for tomorrow’s cover reveal, we’re going to do another version of the covers that weren’t. Tomorrow, we’ll show you the final cover and why it won out.

I will tease you and let you know that one of these is very similar to what author Leigh Raines chose as her final cover.  Which one do you think it is?  Which one is your favorite?


Manuscript Monday: Brainstorming

Today we are going to venture into a crucial part of developing a story, characters, setting, plots and just about any other piece that you might write in your manuscript: brainstorming.

Contrary to popular belief, a writer does not just birth an idea and not have to think about a single thing from the point of conception.  I do not know of a single person who merely sat down at a typewriter, computer, notebook, or scroll and wrote down a complete manuscript without an iota of thought.

Whether it is a large cycle or whether it is a small cycle, the art of brainstorming comes in fast and furious in a writer’s process.  Anyone who has taken a writing class will be told that the simple act of prewriting or fleshing out an outline is a form of brainstorming.  Whenever I personally think of brainstorming, I am taken back to second grade.  We were given a topic such as “juice” and told to write down as many words as we could find to deal with juice.  Then, we were given the same word again and required to write down every single word that came to our mind in succession, i.e. stream of consciousness.

I’m not going to lie, to this day, I still do this.  And when this method doesn’t work, I go for a jog or hit the yoga mat.  There is something about a little physical activity that really gets the brain firing and ideas pounding.  This works so well for me that I am actually contemplating pulling a John Green and getting a treadmill desk. (Any thoughts on this from blog land?)

So why then, does something so crucial and seemingly effortless in our process make our stomachs toss and turn and our inner writer cringe?  Is it because the thought of stopping to formulate a collection of potential ideas makes us feel like less of a writer?  If we need to stop and work out ideas does it mean we aren’t able to craft a masterful story?

Absolutely Not.  Shake off that mindset.

My favorite rule for brainstorming is to throw out the idea that it has to be organized and follow any set of rules.  When you try to approach the creation of ideas, instilling mandatory organization is only going to stifle your potential output.  Open the window, throw that rule out, and get on with it.

Get messy.  Sketch.  Draw.  Scribble.  Write random words.  Make charts.  Make graphs.  Rewrite something you have already written word for word and draw around it.

Draw one of your characters and put them into a new setting just to see where it goes.

Take your ideas and write out a list of opposites or things that would negate them.  I can’t tell you how many ideas have come from looking for the opposite of what I had planned.  Sometimes, finding the opposite helps me progress in the original by shedding light on something I may have not thought of before.

The final piece of brainstorming that really ticks me off is when people say it has to be used appropriately to be effective.  Brainstorming is meant to create ideas, drive progress, and take an idea into reality.  Is there really an appropriate way for creation to be effective?  I would like to hear your thoughts on this and we will address that in a future blog post.

Talk to us in the comments and let us know your thoughts!  What are your favorite ways to brainstorm with your works?  Is there something such as effective brainstorming or is that someone just trying to impose rules on something they tell you to take the rules off of?